Roots and Routes: Scholarly Networks and Knowledge Production in the Pre-Modern Mediterranean and in the Digital Age

Abstract: 
The Roots and Routes Summer Institutes discuss scholarly approaches to historical interactions across linguistic, religious, and political boundaries. In addition to the conference meetings, participants engage in a variety of related Web 2.0 projects.

Current public discourse is dominated by the seemingly contradictory concepts of “the clash of civilizations” on the one hand, and the globalized digital superhighway, on the other. While scholars recognize that the digital revolution is rapidly producing its own hierarchical structures of knowledge production and circulation, we are also intensely interested in the ways in which the very nature of our scholarly networks might be transformed in the process, allowing for qualitatively different types of interaction across linguistic and disciplinary boundaries. Given this, a discussion of historical modes of scholarly interaction across linguistic, religious, and political boundaries is more important than ever. This is especially so because dominant social science and public discourses tend to assume that insurmountable obstacles to communication between different cultures and religions, particularly between Islam and Christianity, have typified history from time immemorial. 

The proposed Roots and Routes Summer Institutes will question this prevailing paradigm and provide a coherent framework for new directions in research. Starting in June 2011, the three annual week-long institutes will bring together international scholars of digital humanities with UT and other GTA faculty and graduate students in the field of pre-modern Mediterranean studies. This field, which has seen enormous growth over the past decade, offers important insights into current debates about knowledge production and circulation by emphasizing how inter-faith, multi-ethnic and polyglot engagements crucially shaped cultural processes once thought of as purely “European.” 

The Roots and Routes Summer Institutes will explore the ways in which scholarly networks past and present were instrumental in the acquisition, translation, and dissemination of texts and technologies. They will be organized around three thematic clusters: (1) Spatialities and Borderlands; (2) Multi-ethnic sociability and materiality; and (3) Translation, mediation, and circulation. Together, participants will chart out the multiplex networks of interaction that profoundly transformed practices of meaning-making in and about the Mediterranean from the eighth century to the Scientific Revolution. They will also engage in developing digital platforms and research tools—including a Web 2.0 collaborative research portal and a multimedia text source—that will generate new types of knowledge about these networks and disseminate that knowledge to new publics.

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